This week's episode of post-apocalyptic drama Jericho pits our hero Jake Green against Ravenwood, the government security contractor he used to work for. When the producers were originally coming up with ideas for a TV show about the collapse of governing institutions after nuclear attacks, they did a lot of research into contractors like Halliburton and Blackwater operating in the chaos of post-invasion Iraq, producer Carol Barbee revealed at Wondercon. Jericho's portrayal of unaccountable contractors presaged the Blackwater scandals, which hadn't yet come out. More about the politics of Jericho, after the jump.
Jericho seems to have gone from being a pretty conservative narrative to a much more radical one. The first season revolved around a vision of the American heartland pulling together after the cities vanished — plus a "clash of the patriarchs" among mayor Johnston Green, his rival Gray Anderson, and Phil Constantino, the sheriff of neighboring town New Bern. And now, in the second season, the rival patriarchs have vanished and the show is much more about the younger characters and their distrust of all authority. And the over-arching plot arc seems to revolve around an arch-conservative government that's lying about the reasons for the nuclear explosions, to cover its own involvement.
So I asked Barbee whether there had been a conscious shift in the show's politics between the first and second seasons.
Barbee responded that "We don't talk politics in the writers' room. We talk characters." The main reason there's less focus on rival patriarchs this season is because Johnston Green, the main characters' father, died in the first season finale. "Johnston Green was always meant to die," Barbee said, calling the show a remake of The Lion King. "Johnston Green had to die so that Jake could step up," and his generation could be faced with having to live up to Johnston's legacy. But there was no intention to change the show's politics, she insisted.
Still, it's no coincidence that the show is alluding to the Iraq war during an election war. "We read the papers," said Barbee. "We are influenced by what goes on."
Because the season is only seven episodes instead of the 22 Barbee and her fellow producers had planned, things move at a much more breakneck pace and "there's no time for treading water." She gave a bit more detail about what a 22-episode second season would have looked like, with storylines taking place in Cheyenne, WY (the capital of the new government, which controls the Western U.S.) and New York City. One character would have left New York to travel across the country to Jericho, and we would have seen more of the country through that character's eyes. The three storylines would have come together at the season's end in Cheyenne. But now there won't be any New York stuff.
Barbee also repeated what she'd said before, that the first season was about saving the town, the second season was about saving the country, and the third season (if any) would be about saving the world.
Oh, and Lennie James, who plays badass CIA agent Robert Hawkins, said his character could kick Jack Bauer's ass